Recently, Pasadena City College took action to create an easier way for students to take classes without the need of purchasing expensive textbooks. Beginning during the Winter 2018 intersession, students are able to search the course catalog for classes that only use zero-cost textbooks.

This applies to not only traditional classes, but also online classes. These classes will utilize only open educational resources (OER) available for free online.

The initiative is part of the College Textbook Affordability Act that was passed back in 2015 by the state of California.

According to the California Legislature’s website, the bill was established to create an option for faculty to teach a course that would not require textbooks. This would make achieving an education easier for students that find it troubling to afford textbooks.

The struggle for students trying to afford expensive textbooks is all too common across all campuses in the U.S. For years now, the price of textbooks and college tuition has been increasing and getting out of reach of students.

A study done by the U.S. Public Information Research Group (PIRG) concluded that prices of textbooks have risen because authors are releasing newer editions and combining editions with software.

The higher prices deter students away from purchasing the books, even though students know doing this could hurt their progress. 65 percent of students chose not to buy the books because the price was too high, according to the U.S. PIRG.

Some professors at Pasadena City College shared their take on the zero-cost textbook program.

“It is important that students’ costs for classes don’t get out of control. Using the OER or Zero Cost Textbook saves students money,” said chemistry professor Jared Ashcroft. “A survey of students in my class had 29/29 [students] say they prefer the ZCT [Zero-Cost Textbook]. Though they did say that the textbook was not as good, but not a great difference. Using the OER textbook does not change my class curriculum at all.”

When asked if OER affects the curriculum, professor of psychology Jennifer Fiebig spoke about how using OER will affect her classes these upcoming semesters.

“Using an OER (Open Educational Resources) textbook has definitely changed the way I organize and teach a class,” Fiebig said.

Fiebig expressed the issues that can arise with traditional textbooks.

“Inevitably, there were problems, resulting from the bookstore running out of textbooks, books from online vendors like Amazon having backorders, to students waiting until their financial aid check arrived before they could afford to purchase the textbook,” Fiebig said. “Now, I can start my assignments immediately and basically ‘hit the ground running.’ I truly appreciate this aspect of using OER textbooks as it levels the playing field and it provides all students with the same opportunity to succeed from the first day.”

Through usage of OER, Fiebig explained that she believes students’ grades should rise because there are no academic barriers holding students back.

“At the end of the day, students are taking a college class and their various commitments or life demands are going to be the same whether they have a textbook in their hand or use material online,” said Fiebig. “Yet, our hope as educators is that by utilizing OER textbooks we, as professors, are eliminating a key barrier to academic success and that, hopefully, we help more students to obtain their educational goals. I feel that if I have assisted even one additional student in passing my class, then OER textbooks are worth it!”

Not all students share the same view when it comes to OER. While some students agree with the act, some are looking at the option from a different angle.

“I believe that it’s a good option, but that students should be encouraged to take classes that require books,” said freshman Michael Brown. “The third-party information by other professionals is a good thing to reference and is also very important to education.”

With the upcoming Winter 2018 semester finally implementing the zero-cost textbook option, PCC will be looking to change the attitude of students who are struggling to purchase textbooks for class.

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